Not only does Matild Palace mark a milestone moment in the expansion of The Luxury Collection brand, but it signifies the revival of one of the city’s most storied and architecturally significant buildings.
Matild Palace was constructed some 120 years ago under the patronage of Her Imperial and Royal Highness Maria Klotild of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Princess Klotild wished to create a grand ‘gateway’ to the new Elisabeth Bridge over the River Danube by building a baroque palace either side. By 1902, Matild Palace had been completed, and offered an impressive retail and apartment property awash with Zsolnay ceramics, Gyula Jungfer wrought iron and Miksa Róth stained glass.
“We sought to create an exceptional guest experience by reconciling apparently contrary aesthetic values”
Later, the Belvarosi Café was added – an elegant setting that would play host to writers, artists and musicians throughout the city’s Silver Age, during the 20th-century interwar period. Sadly, this was to prove the heydey for the property, which sustained considerable damage towards the end of WW2. Though it underwent renovation and the cafe was reopened, the vestiges of the palace’s former glamour had faded.
Maria Vafiadis and her team at MKV Design have translated this abundant history into an immersive hospitality experience, capturing the magic of the palace’s halcyon days and the remarkable life of its patron.
“In reviving the building and converting it to a luxury hotel, we reached back to the property’s glamorous early days and created a narrative in which the duchess herself features, returning to Budapest to transform the palace into a luxury hotel where friends are invited to stay, dine and partake in the city’s bathing traditions, where artists gather and the duchess decides to make her residence,” she explains.
“We sought to create an exceptional guest experience by reconciling apparently contrary aesthetic values. The building is a palace and feels very grand, but at the same time it is intimate. It is powerful, but also very delicate and feminine. It is classical, but also forward-looking and modern. Matild Palace is glamorous, elegant and sophisticated. It is a hotel that reflects the personality and lifestyle of the duchess.”
By incorporating a thought-provoking blend of old meets new within the interior scheme, Maria has effortlessly navigated any challenges posed by the palace’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
“In terms of the interiors, most of the heritage elements were located in the ground floor passage and cafe areas, and they didn’t pose a problem because they were interwoven nicely into our narrative and made it even more special,” Maria explains.
“At street level, we kept the existing interior and restored it, adding modern versions of elements that were once housed in Matild Palace, such as over-scaled pendants made of individual porcelain pieces that showcase the latest chapter of the local Zsolnay tile tradition and crafted metalwork.”
The striking reception area features a magnificent custom-designed desk in beaten brass, which flows organically in front of a wall clad in textured white tiles. Moving through into the double-height lobby lounge, a floor-to-ceiling collection of images of Budapest printed onto metal draws the eye. In the centre, an oil-on-canvas portrait of Princess Klotilde takes pride of place.
“We reached back to the property’s glamorous early days and created a narrative in which the duchess herself features, returning to Budapest to transform the palace into a luxury hotel where friends are invited to stay, dine and partake in the city’s bathing traditions”
With Wolfgang Puck heading up dining operations at Matild Palace, guests can expect a fresh and iconic gastronomical experience. His renowned restaurant, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, marks the debut of the Beverly Hills dining phenomenon in Hungary, offering traditional Hungarian cuisine with a modern twist.
The Belvarosi Café , meanwhile, has been artfully reimagined as Matild Cafe and Cabaret. MKV has excavated and renovated a long-buried stage here, so that it may play host to musicians and cabaret artists once again. An elegant mezzanine gallery provides the perfect viewing platform, with ornate architectural detailing on the ceiling and the glow of several glamorous chandeliers completing the look.
An atmospheric rooftop bar, named The Duchess, completes the food and beverage offering. Accessed via a hidden entrance of private lifts, this glamorous hideaway channels Princess Klotild’s vibrant social life.
“Legends abound about the antics of the artists who once visited Matild Palace and of a hidden room for secret trysts,” explains Maria. “We enjoyed paying homage to this in the rooftop bar.
“Here, the ambience is that of a secret private club where fantastic things can happen. A glowing onyx bar displays its liquor ‘library’, tables are held aloft by brass peacocks, and even a couple of giraffe sculptures join the host of extraordinary objects. The interiors are dark and moody, with plush fabrics and marble finishes glinting under ceiling pendants.”
The Swan Spa at Matild Palace lives up to Budapest’s reputation for thermal bathing, with traditional thermal therapy and hammam rituals on offer to awaken the senses.
“Naturally, Matild Palace was destined to have its own spa, inspired by the bathing culture and reinterpreted into an exquisite sanctuary where the graceful forms of the swans which inhabit the river Danube infuse the design,” Maria explains.
“Walls resemble their soft white plumes of feathers, and an ornate metalwork screen depicts their dance – the ethereal relaxation room hints of traditional bathhouses or a deep-water pool into which swans may dive.”
MKV Design has completely reconfigured the property from the first floor upwards to create 111 sumptuous guest rooms and 19 suites. The four guestroom categories each take inspiration from The Duchess’ exuberant lifestyle and early 20th-century Budapest, and offer an eclectic mix of contemporary design with colourful vintage furnishings.
“The guest rooms enjoy extravagant belle époche flourishes which complement the architecture of the building, embroidery and fine metalwork reflecting Hungary’s traditional crafts heritage, as well as a thoughtful colour palette of teal, green, gold and copper reflecting the hues of the iconic Budapest roofscape,” says Maria.
“Materials include faux shagreen, large verre églomisé mirrors, marble-topped tables, crystal lamps and Hungarian-style fishbone parquet flooring complemented by soft rugs. With an emphasis on detail and craftmanship, beautiful full-height headboards are upholstered in embossed leather, onto which an elaborate art deco pattern has been stitched in a design inspired by The Adventures of Sinbad – a Hungarian classic published in 1911 and authored by one of the writers who used to frequent the palace.”
“Legends abound about the antics of the artists who once visited Matild Palace and of a hidden room for secret trysts – we enjoyed paying homage to this in the rooftop bar”
The fifth-floor ‘artists’ rooms offer a truly unique stay in the rooftop of the property. As one might expect, the large, sloping windows give way to endless views across the city or over the Danube.
The Crown Tower Suite spans three floors and is the first suite in Hungary to come with a 48m-high dedicated tower, boasting 360° views of the city. The Maria Klotild Royal Suite, meanwhile, has been designed as a modern interpretation of the Duchess’ private suite, featuring a spacious master bedroom, bathroom, living room and study.
Designing the guest bathrooms proved to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the project for Maria. “We wanted them to have a sense of place and feel truly special, like mini spas reflecting the long bathing tradition of Budapest,” she explains.
“The combination of the turquoise mosaics with gold accents and the white marble creates such a soothing and welcoming feel – they feel like a sanctuary in every room.”